Call it what you want when it comes to travel and leisure: wave season, peak season, people-getting-antsy-season, but any travel agent or app will tell you that this time of year is historically good for the travel agency when people begin booking and talking about their travel plans for the spring and summer.

But as coronavirus fears hamstring the travel industry — bookings are down, tourist areas are closed, cruise ships seem like a bad place to be — the amount of chatter about the associated travel booking and review apps has dropped in the past month after what appeared to be a normal, healthy year of travel and leisure chatter on Facebook ($FB). Here's what we're seeing.

Cruise Critic offers cruise bookings and reviews for all major cruise lines. In early 2020, mentions of the site swelled from less than 10,000 to nearly twice that in late January. Mentioned jumped in February as the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in Japan. But, since then, mentions of Cruise Critic have slowed to late-2019 levels and appear to be on a path that doesn't seem to reflect positive activity for a service that relies on wave season.

TripAdvisor ($TRIP) has become one of the leading sites and apps for both destination reviews and bookings. In early February, mentions of the service swelled to nearly 160,000. But as we headed into March, it was only seeing around 50,000 daily mentions. That has since tailed up to around 70,000 mentions, but it's possible any new chatter is related to travel cancelations and tourism lockdowns similar to what Italy has done.

TravelZoo ($TZOO), a major vacation booking site and app, had what appears to be an excellent end of 2019 as people looked to plan out their 2020 vacations. In the new year, TravelZoo was mentioned 363,000 times. But as of this week, daily mentions of the service have dropped to just over 30,000. It seems fewer people are humblebragging about their upcoming vacations on Facebook than ever.

Like TravelZoo, Kayak ($BKNG) offers flight and travel packages to bargain-hunting would-be world adventurers. Unfortunately for those who booked in late 2019, though, many may be looking for forgiving cancelation fees. Indeed, mentions of TravelZoo spiked in February to nearly 17,000 on February 8 just as the first wave of coronavirus news affecting travel came in. Since then, mentions of the service have slumped to less than 8,000 per day.

Airfarewatchdog ($TRIP) — a Tripadvisor company — is seeing an almost identical pattern in regards to Facebook chatter: an early 2020 swell interest as people chattered about their fresh spring and summer bookings, and then an even larger swell in February as both concerns over cancelations and elation about potential deals brought daily mentions of the service to a peak of 8,590 from less than 3,000 in just 5 days. Since then, mentions of Airfarewatchdog are below 2,000 daily.

For Booking Holdings' Priceline ($BKNG), new year travel specials resulted in a large peak of chatter about the discount booking engine. On January 4, mentions broke 1,000. But since then, chatter has been scant, with only 512 mentions of Priceline on Facebook by March 8, 2020.

There's no doubt that the travel agency will be adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. People are being advised to stay home, avoid crowded areas, and countries begin to go into periods of border lockdown, travel will become a non-option. What we're likely seeing here is the first wave of social media chatter as would-be travelers think twice about their plans.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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